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Ch. 140 A Death in the Family

Ch. 140  A Death in the Family   

          May 2022

          “My mom is dying.”

          Hector, my good friend at The Refuge, sent me this message about 9 p.m. and followed it with “My mother died” at 2 a.m. Hector’s mother Marlene was Pat’s usual dining partner because both sit in special Broda wheelchairs for comfort. These chairs place the rider too high for the main dining table; instead, Pat and Marlene were placed at a table that could be raised a couple inches higher than usual. Since Hector came to The Refuge every day to help feed his mother and I came at the same time for Pat, we shared a lot. When I had to stay away for ten days with Covid, Hector texted me each day to update me on Pat’s health. When Hector became very anxious, I reassured him that he was doing everything right regarding taking care of his mother.

          I arrived at The Refuge by 9 a.m. I met my son Joshua in the driveway and my daughter Cindy inside the building. My daughter Jenny also arrived later in the day as soon as she could get out of work. We came to comfort Hector, who had stayed at The Refuge to begin packing his mother’s things. We hugged and cried. I also wanted to tell Pat what happened and to share feelings with her. She was sleepy, however, and I don’t think she understood my words. But Cindy stayed with Pat to tell her again when she awakened.

          If family members are those who share powerful life experiences, then Hector certainly qualifies as a member of our family. May he find peace as he continues his journey.

          Pat’s comments on A Death in the Family:

Ron to Pat: “Do you ever think of Marlene and Hector?”

Pat: “Yes, recently.”

Ron to Pat three days later: “Do you remember them?”

Pat: “Yes, vaguely.”

Ron to Pat: “Do you miss them?”

Pat: No answer.

          Note that neurons in the amygdala, where emotions are processed; in the hippocampus, where short term memories are transferred to long term storage centers; and in higher cortical areas where feelings are integrated with thoughts to create empathy, are all damaged during Lewy Body Dementia. Hence, Pat has difficulty connecting at a feelings level concerning Marlene’s death, trouble remembering Marlene and Hector even a few days after they are no longer present, and she has lost some of her ability to feel empathy toward them. The saddest reality here is that Pat was a tremendously empathic person before Lewy Body took over her life. I can think of one recent situation in which Pat tried to comfort another resident who was in pain, so she still has the capacity to feel empathy in the immediate present. I am thankful for that because it allows me to retain my belief/illusion/conviction that Pat is still Pat, albeit a diminished version of herself.